Making a difference: Area woman set to compete in national competition after winning crown as 2023 Miss Minnesota Petite
Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Between pageants, running her own business and protecting the environment, Cassandra Westcott is a busy person. For one, she was recently named Miss Minnesota Petite 2023. And make no mistake, winning the pageant didn’t mean winning a beauty contest.
“It stands for your inner beauty showcasing through kindness, generosity, strengths, … making a difference in the world and being an inspiration to other women and helping others to do the same,” she said, referring to the Miss Minnesota Petite contest.
According to the Petite USA website, to qualify competitors must be no taller than 5 feet 6 inches in bare feet, of good moral character, in good health, a natural born female, a citizen of the United States by birth or naturalization, hold a valid passport, not use or consume or abuse illegal or dangerous substances, and not have any association with the adult entertainment or publishing industries. To qualify in the Miss division, competitors had to be between 19 and 26, unmarried and with no children.
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“I always believed it was just about looks and makeup and walking,” she said. “But I realized that it was a group of women that got together that wanted to make a difference in the world, so they helped each other to do that.”
And that was something she was doing. That included her work to make her property in Hollandale a certified wild natural habitat, and to that effect restricts use of herbicides and pesticides. She’s also working with her family to bring in endangered butterflies.
Wanting to see what else she could do, she enrolled in the competition despite having no previous experience.
“The only thing I can remember vaguely is walking for a pajama show I believe at the old Moose Lodge when I was a little kid,” she said. “Other than that nothing. Just went to school, played in my garden. I love animals.”
Then she passed the first round. Then the second and the third before ending last August.
“I was blown away by the final email that was sent confirming my title as Miss Minnesota Petite,” she said. “[The email] said that I competed against thousands, and that was mind-blowing to me.”
She screamed, and couldn’t remember who was more surprised.
Being Miss Minnesota Petite also allows her to make a positive difference, something she’s wanted to do since high school. And not just with her environmental work.
“I’ve been able to help little girls realize that they have abilities they can do, too, and if they just practice a little more they can do it as well,” she said. “If they want to garden, if they want to help someone, simply picking up someone’s bags that fell at a grocery store. I just want everyone to know that they can be the difference.”
She volunteered at Riverland’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, as well as several of the school’s videos.
Doing this has taught her how capable she is, whether starting a business, certifying land as a wildlife sanctuary, becoming an artist or teaching, something she wants to do by teaching at the Albert Lea Art Center.
“I’m excited to introduce people to the beauty of art again,” she said. “A lot of these ideas I wouldn’t have thought of or been introduced to had I not joined pageantry.”
Westcott will compete this August in the Miss Petite USA competition in Milwaukee. There is also a Miss Petite International, should she be named Miss Petite USA.
“I truly want to thank everyone for the support that I’ve received,” she said. “… I hope with everyone’s help that I can do great things and we can all do great things and be the difference together, just make our community better than it was before.”
Her advice to girls considering entering any type of pageant was to stay true to themselves.
“Being who you are is who you are meant to be and you will shine when you are yourself,” she said. “Just do it. If you’re scared, do it anyway because you’ll be more than happy you did it.”
She also describes herself as “a long-time artist that’s rediscovered herself,” and said she enjoyed painting, drawing and sketching. But being shy as a child, she never showed anyone outside immediate family her work.
For her, art represented something she could do with as she wanted.
“You decided how it went, and if it didn’t go the way you wanted it to go then you just tried again,” she said, adding the impact a painting could have was meaningful for her.
Painting was in her family, as her great-grandmother and grandmother painted.
Her grandmother even introduced her to local artist Roy Mattson and visited his studio, where she saw a watercolor. The work immediately gave her peace and inspired her to take an art class, which in turn led her to exploring art on her own.
So she practiced with different paints and styles.
“Bob Ross was my muse,” she said, referring to the popular PBS art instructor.
And as she got older, she took up interest in jewelry making.
“I couldn’t wear my paintings,” she said.
She also collected rocks as a child. So wanting to take her creativity with her, she swapped rocks with crystals and made her own jewelry, believing jewelry was a good way of expressing one’s self.
“Jewelry was my mom’s own take on art,” she said.”Growing up she taught me how to make jewelry, how to sew on the sewing machine.”
Wanting to expand her skills, she took carpentry and welding classes in high school, and she hopes to get a welding machine
To that effect, she wants to expand her jewelry throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Currently, her jewelry is available at the Albert Lea Art Center and Daisy Blue Naturals.
“I just felt the need to come here one day, I can’t explain that,” she said, describing her visit to the Art Center in the spring of 2022.
It was her first time at the center since it relocated. It was also the last day to enter artwork for a young artist exhibit, so she brought her work to the exhibit.
The show also made her realize she wanted to be present in the community, and to that effect she’s displaying a work at Mayo Clinic Albert Lea, and she wants to do a painting class for children and adults at the Art Center.
In the meantime, she’s currently working on epoxying a stool and tables, which she hopes to sell.
She is her own employer. Anyone interested in jewelry can also reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.